Titan A.E.


Don Bluth finally gives all the whining animation fans what they claim to want, and guess what? They fail to show up and buy tickets. Titan AE, which fulfilled the claimed wishes of most of the animation whiners I have listened to over the years, has been solidly disparaged by these same folks on its release.

I personally thought it was a pretty good ride, and from a pure character animation point of view it was excellent. It featured some of the most solid human animation performances I have seen in a long time. Not only that, it also was adult themed, had no singing characters and the sidekicks were not totally annoying. If you are an animation fan I urge you to go see this film. You might be disappointed with a few things but overall the animation is pretty fun.

The major criticisms I have heard on the net and in various reviews usually revolve around the fact that the story seems to be cribbed from every sci-fi film made in the last 25 years. But then I could probably say that about most science fiction done in recent years, with the exception of
The Matrix
which still had "borrowed" concepts. Frankly this didn't bother me and I have to point out a couple of cool sequences which were totally original in concept; the Hydrogen Tree Planet sequence and the Ice Field sequence. Both these sequences were very cool and well executed, and they are not ripped off from any other movie. Another sequence which was quite visually stunning was a section where the heroes ship flies through a bunch of gaseous nebulae.

The other big criticisms seem to be the standard guns which people pull out to piss on Bluth films. The humans are rotoscoped and look like Saturday Morning animation, the dialog is too overdone, it moved too much and so on.

Let's look at these complaints one by one:

The humans are rotoscoped!
I say so what. Most human animation in all the Disney classics was rotoscoped and no one complains about this. Whether it is badly rotoscoped or not is another issue. In Titan AE the roto is very well done, and I know from talking to Len Simon who directed the animation that it was done properly. He was saying that they much more strictly enforced a policy of using the live action as keyframe reference rather than allowing people to simply trace. This is very apparent in the solidity of the drawings and in the weight displayed by the characters as opposed to the usual floatiness and crawliness associated with roto.

The characters look like they are from a Saturday Morning GI Joe cartoon!
One character, Corso, looks like a military guy but that is his character. The animation certainly isn't Saturday Morning, but I've read reviews implicating the quality of the animation because this one character reminds the reviewer of some sub standard TV show they saw when they were a kid. Another review claimed it was worse than Heavy Metal. Give me a break! People making these claims obviously couldn't animate their way out of a paper bag and are probably prone to calling an inbetween a "tween".

The dialog is too overdone!
It is called "chewy-dialog" and it is the Bluth house style. Live with it. I like it myself. Also, if this is your criteria for judging animation you might as well piss on Aardman and Nick Park's animation which has a weirdly distinct lip sync style as well. The Disney mushy dialog style is not the only way to do it.

"It moved too much!"
One of the main principles of animation as outlined in the Illusion of Life" is

Enough said. I could go on but it is obvious that most of the criticisms laid at the feet of this movie are specious crap. The only problems I had with the movie were some small story holes and with the integration of the 2D and 3D.

Neither of these issues were significant enough to stop me from enjoying the movie. If I were Don and his team I would be proud of this film. For the next one though I'd use a toonshader and forego the fully rendered 3D. To wrap up, the film while it has a few problems is worth seeing and is quite fun. If you don't see it in the theater it is definitely worth a look on video.


Stop by the

Buzz Words

Hey folks, The Butcher here with a few words about words.

buzz words
Buzz words
irritate me.
Buzz words
serve no other purpose than to allow people who are basically unfamiliar with a process to sound cool by using imaginary lingo instead of the accepted terminology. It's redundant, pretentious, and irritating to me, The Butcher. And if it irritates The Butcher, it's gotta go. Just to show you how
buzz words
have infiltrated our consciences and industry, for the remainder of this article, all
buzz words
will be in italics. Note that even the term "
buzz word
" is a
buzz word
in and of itself. Dammit, that's irritating!

Perhaps the most annoying
buzz word
to surface recently is
. A recent article in a nationally published animation magazine (*ahem*) described the entire processes of creating the drawings in between key poses as
. The drawings themselves were even referred to as
. Not once were the terms "inbetweening" and "inbetweens" used - not even to show where these annoying
buzz words
came from. People, there is no need for new words to describe the process of in-betweening and the inbetweens themselves! Changing the word does not make it more interesting, or easier to understand for the masses. It's less descriptive than the proper term: an "inbetween" intrinsically sounds like something that goes in between two other things - in this case, two other drawings. The only proper use of the word
in cartooning is as a sound effect for a bullet bouncing off of Superman's chest.

Computer technology has completely replaced certain processes. Before computers, if an artist needed to see one drawing overlaid on top of another, they'd either hold the two sheets of drawings up to the light, or place the drawings on a lightbox. In the
digital realm
, you don't have
physical sheets
to shine a light through, but the computer can simulate the effect. What is this called when done on a computer? Lightboxing? Nope. Transparency? Nope again. They call it
. To "lightbox" two drawings might be a little vague, and to "put them on transparency" gives an idea of what might be going on. But onion-skinning is something you do in the Army when you're on KP.
is culinary, not cinematic. Keep it in the kitchen, okay?

Animation is a process. It is NOT the finished product. Thus, I'm getting sick of hearing people talk about "
for the web". "I make
".....oh, shut up - that really sounds lame. No one says that they like watching saturday morning
. Call it cartoons, or call it Quicktimes, or call it AVIs, or call it quits. You can not express the word animation as a plural!! So there.

As long as we're on the topic of software, here's an annoying expression that comes up alot especially where tech support is concerned:
. STOP THAT!!! It's overused faux hipster-speak. Just knock it off.

Equally annoying is the term
. We can trace this one back to "
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
", a movie in which the cartoon characters that lived in the real world were referred to as
. However, somehow the word
became a substitute for not only cartoon characters (as in "Goofy is my favorite
"), but for animation itself - as in "I work in
". It's another over-used expression, and as such I hereby undertake to refuse to recognize it as a legitimate term, except for when it refers the animation production software made by SoftImage, which is spelled with a
instead of an
, anyway.

It's great that technology is now making possible for the average joe to create animated projects on a scale ranging from a short piece for the internet to a feature-length film. However, it seems totally unnecessary to invent new terms for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar to the technical and artistic aspects of animation. If you want to learn animation, then learn animation. If you want to teach it, then teach it, but don't re-invent or reverse engineer the wheel in the process.

Remember folks, The Butcher swings his cleaver in anger because he cares. But say the word
in my presence and you'll find my cleaver swinging towards your neck. See ya.

The Butcher


What's in a name?

Hey folks, the Butcher here.

Well, I know a lot of you are out there looking for work. And I'm sure that a lot of you are aware that in the last few years, animation has become inextricably entwined with computers. So I hope you're out getting some computer experience and not just reading my goofball articles. Surfing the web doesn't count for getting computer experience, gang.

However, you can look for work here on the web. The only trouble is, as an animator, you will find a wide variety of definitions of that word. Some companies are looking for traditional animators, some for 3D animators, some for Flash animators, while others still are looking for people to make animation for videogames which may or may not apply to the aforementioned types of animators. A big problem is that a lot of the companies that are trying to hire people have no idea what an animator does, so you end up seeing ads like this one:

Animator Wanted
Must be proficient with Unix, C++,
Java, and have at least 5 years
experience. No phone calls,

send resume/reel to....

(For actual proof search for "animator" @ DICE.COM)

Huh? That doesn't sound like an animator to the Butcher. What these people seem to fail to realize is that animation is a combination of different skills. Traditionally speaking, before one can animate, one must be able to draw. Learning to draw is a process in and of itself. Then, once you can draw, you may not necessarily be able to animate. Animation is a whole new learning process. Once you can animate, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can do it on a computer, too. Computer knowledge is yet again a whole new learning process. And if you can operate a computer or an animation software package, it doesn't mean you can animate. Making an image move is not the same as bringing it to life.

Animation is still a mystical concept to most people outside of the business. And I'm sorry, but these hot shot, start-up dot-coms are not in the business of animation. They need animators, but they are in the business of web commerce and need to find out what an animator is before advertising for one. Little do they know it, but unless that rare individual that exactly meets the needs of the above ad actually exists, they probably need two people. Oh dear, then they'd have to pay two people! But they should look at it this way - let's say you needed a liver transplant, and to get it, you had to be flown to some clinic in the mountains during horrendous weather. Would you prefer to save some money and find a surgeon who is also a skillful pilot? Also, do you want your pilot/surgeon to have at you with a knife after flying through that nerve-wracking storm? Wouldn't you rather get the best pilot and the best surgeon you could?

Well, you can span the globe, looking for that all-in-one ingenious pilot and brilliant surgeon, but your animation is going to look like shit. You get what you pay for, and while it makes sense to find someone that can wear a lot of hats, you don't want the person's work to suffer because he/she is buried under 5 fedoras, 4 yarmulkes, 3 top hats, 2 baseball caps and a big sombreo with those dingle-balls around the rim.

Know thyself, and know thy job. Happy hunting.

The Butcher